Your hair, skin and nails can tell a lot more about your health than you realise. Variations in these body structures can indicate major changes happening in the body internally, especially nutrient deficiencies or certain health conditions. Stress, smoking, illness and unhealthy eating habits can have an impact on the health and appearance of your hair, nails and skin. Supplements can help to fill gaps within your diet to maximise your body's full potential to achieve healthier hair, skin and nails.
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is an essential vitamin that must be obtained from the diet. It plays a role in growth, repair and development of all body tissues. Food sources of vitamin C include fresh fruit and vegetables, especially citrus fruits. This vitamin is known for its role in strengthening the immune system but also is essential for production of collagen which helps to give shape, strength and integrity to many tissues in the body and helps form the basis of healthy skin.
Zinc is a trace mineral which is necessary for almost 100 enzymes to carry out significant chemical reactions in the body. It plays an important role in DNA synthesis, growth of cells, building proteins, healing damaged tissue and maintaining a healthy immune system. Animal food sources rich in zinc include meat, poultry and seafood. Plant food sources such as legumes and wholegrains are also rich in zinc but contain phytates which can bind to the mineral and lower absorption. Zinc supports healthy hair, skin and nails by playing a role in the following functions in the body, including building keratin, formation of collagen and cell division that is vital for hair and nail growth.
Copper is an essential trace mineral found throughout the body. This mineral helps to produce red blood cells in the body and maintain the health of nerve cells and your body’s immune system. Copper also plays a role in the formation of collagen which is an important component of hair skin and nails, providing strength, elasticity and hydration. Copper also contributes to normal skin and hair pigmentation and protection of cells from oxidative stress.
Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is an organic form of sulphur which can improve various metabolic diseases when used as a dietary supplement. Studies have shown supplementation with MSM provided significant improvements in the condition of hair and nails by helping to improve strength and texture.
Silicon is an abundant trace mineral in the human body. It is found in water, plant and animal sources. For skin, silicon is important for optimal collagen synthesis and activation and hydroxylating enzymes, improving skin strength and elasticity. For hair, the higher content of silicon in the hair results in a lower rate of hair loss and increased brightness. Silicon also benefits nails since it is a predominant mineral in their composition.
L-Proline is an amino acid which is a major component of collagen. This nutrient plays an important part in hair, skin and nail health as it increases collagen synthesis along with vitamin C. It also functions to help improve the texture and resiliency of skin, preventing wrinkles by maintaining the collagen production during the ageing process.
L-Lysine (as L-lysine HCI) is an essential amino acid that your body cannot produce and will need to be obtained from your diet. L-lysine helps to enhance the effects of Propecia and Rogaine, which are treatments often used for male pattern baldness (androgenetic alopecia - a cause of hair loss in men) and other conditions that cause hair loss. A deficiency of lysine may cause excessive hair loss and slow down the hair growth process.
Type I collagen is the most common type of collagen found in the body. It is prevalent in connective tissue such as hair, skin and nails. It accounts for 90% of the body’s collagen stores. This type of collagen minimises fine lines and wrinkles and improves skin hydration and elasticity. It also helps to strengthen nails and promotes stronger growth and thickness of hair.
Iron is a mineral in the body that has an important function to carry oxygen in the haemoglobin of red blood cells throughout the body so cells can produce energy. Iron is a major nutrient required for the production of collagen, which helps to keep skin hydrated and gives it elasticity, structure and a healthy glow. Iron also plays an important role for healing wounds as it helps carry oxygen to the skin cells where it aids in cell growth and the formation of new tissues while encouraging the repair of damaged injured skin. Low iron levels in the body can lead to brittle nails that peel and break easily, therefore sufficient iron stores help to maintain stronger and healthy nails. Low iron levels have also been linked to thinning, brittle, dry hair and hair loss.
Vitamin A is available in two forms: beta-carotene is a provitamin that is converted into vitamin A in the body and vitamin A is an antioxidant that protects the body against free radicals. Vitamin A helps to maintain strong hair follicles and keep the scalp’s skin cells healthy. It also helps to improve the production of natural scalp oil which lubricates the hair and prevents bacterial growth. This nutrient also helps to fight acne and wrinkles due to its anti-aging properties.
Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin with antioxidant properties. It is important for vision, reproduction and the health of your brain, blood and skin. Foods rich in vitamin E include wheatgerm oil, sunflower, safflower and soybean oil, sunflower seeds, almonds and peanuts. Vitamin E can also be sourced from meats, dairy, leafy greens and fortified cereals. Vitamin E has been shown to reduce cell damage, maintain a healthy scalp, prevent hair loss and improve hair growth. Supplementation with this nutrient has been found to prevent yellow nail syndrome, which causes peeling, cracked and yellow nails. Vitamin E has moisturising properties which prevents cracked cuticles and dry skin around the nail bed. This nutrient also benefits the skin by preventing the skin from losing moisture, protection from damage and softens the skin. It may also assist in reducing sun damage by absorbing UVB rays and reducing the skin’s inflammatory response (swelling, redding and thickening).
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin and is found in animal food sources such as salmon, herring, sardines, cod liver oil, canned tuna and egg yolks. Plant based sources of vitamin D include mushrooms which can synthesise vitamin D2 when exposed to UV light. Vitamin D is very important for hair growth and regrowth. Hair growth goes through different phases, a long growing phase, a short shedding phase then they cycle resets back to the growing phase. Vitamin D helps speed up the phase from the shedding phase back into the growing phase so new hair will emerge. Vitamin D helps to regulate calcium levels in the body which is important for healthy nails (reduction of nail peeling and chipping). Sufficient levels of vitamin D levels may help with preventing skin from premature ageing and may be an effective treatment for skin conditions such as dry skin, psoriasis and eczema.
Protein is found throughout the body in muscle, bone, skin and hair and forms the building blocks of body tissue. Animal based protein sources include meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy foods. Plant based protein include pulses, soya beans, quinoa, nuts and seeds. Keratin, collagen and elastin are three proteins that play a major role in the maintenance of healthy, beautiful hair, skin and nails. Consuming protein rich foods supplies the body with the essential amino acids required to make keratin which is the form of protein that makes up hair, skin and nails. Keratin helps to ensure hair, skin and nails stay strong and healthy. Nutrients such as biotin (found in nuts, beans, cauliflower and mushrooms), vitamin A (found in pumpkin, sweet potatoes, legumes and raw carrots) and sulphurous foods (like meat, eggs, kale and Brussels sprouts) help to boost the production of keratin. Animal sources of protein are known as complete proteins as they contain all nine of the essential amino acids which the body is unable to produce by itself. This includes L-lysine which supports the body’s synthesis of collagen and functions to improve skin elasticity, hydration and strength. Elastin fibres also provide elasticity and resilience to skin and food sources include greens, citrus fruits, fish, berries and nuts. These can help the body produce more elastin.
Thinning or balding hair is usually part of the ageing process. Regular hair loss is normal but rapid changes and hair loss in areas not generally associated with regular baldness patterns can be a sign that something is wrong. Hair loss may be a sign of a dysfunctional thyroid or nutrient imbalances in the body. Due to hormonal changes temporary hair loss occurs during and after pregnancy. A less common condition called alopecia areata can also cause hair loss and occurs when your immune system attacks your body. With this condition bald patches can occur anywhere on the body where there is hair growth.
Chronic stress and a condition called trichotillomania, in which someone has recurring urges to pull out their hair, also causes hair loss.
Your scalp can also determine the health of your hair. The most common scalp condition is dandruff (skin flaking off) which is usually treated with anti-dandruff shampoos. Scalp irritation can also be a sign of an allergy to a hair product and inflammation may be caused by psoriasis or an infection.
Changes in hair can provide clues to the presence of an underlying vitamin deficiency. A variety of genetic, metabolic, nutritional, and acquired disorders result in hair colour changes.
This is a fibrous structural protein that helps form the tissues of the hair, nails and outer layer of the skin. Keratin is naturally produced by the body and food sources that boost keratin production include onions, sweet potatoes, sunflower seeds, mango, garlic, kale and carrots. There are two types of keratin in the body, type I and type II. Type I keratins helps to protect cells from internal forces in your body and type II keratins help to balance type I keratins and manage cell activity. The two forms of keratin include alpha and beta keratin. Alpha keratin is found in the hair, epidermis, horns and nails of mammals (type I and type II keratins are alpha-keratins). Beta keratin is found in the feathers, beaks, claws, scales of birds and reptiles. Studies have shown that shampoos and conditioners that contain keratin hydrolysates can improve the appearance of and health of your hair.
The four stages of the hair growth cycle include Anagen, Categen, Telogen and Exogen.
The Anagen Phase, also known as the growth phase or active phase, occurs when the cells in the root of your hair are rapidly dividing to form new hair. In this phase, your hair grows around 1.0cm a month (about 15.0cm a year). Hair growth is faster in the summer than in winter. This phase of the hair growth cycle lasts about 3-5 years, averaging a full-length hair growth of 45 - 76cm. The Anagen Phase is longer in people of Asian descent and can last as much as 7 years.
Following the Anagen Phase, the hair cycle enters a short transitional phase known as the Catagen Phase. This phase signals the end of active hair growth and blood supply to individual hairs is cut off from the blood supply and from the cells that produce new hair. Approximately 3% of all hairs are in this stage at any time. The Catagen Phase lasts about 10 days.
The Telogen Phase is the third stage of your natural hair growth cycle. This phase is known as the resting period when strands remain in their follicles but are not actively growing. An estimate of 10-15% of your hairs are in the Telogen Phase at any given moment. This phase lasts approximately 3 months or 100 days.
The final stage of the hair growth cycle is the Exogen Phase, where individual hair strands are released from their follicles and fall out. After this phase, the hair cycle starts again.
It is important to note that each hair follicle is independent and goes through the growth cycle at different times, otherwise all your hair would fall out at once. It is normal to shed a certain number of hairs a day (80 to 100 hairs on a healthy head of hair).
Anagen effluvium refers to hair shedding that takes place during the anagen or growing phase of the hair cycle. While telogen effluvium arises during the telogen or resting phase of the hair cycle.
Hair colour alterations can result from many conditions and are not only related to changes of melanin production but also from changes in the hair structure itself. Many genetic, metabolic, nutritional and acquired disorders may result in hair colour changes. When the underlying defect is corrected, the hair colour usually returns to normal. The hair flag sign (alternating horizontal bands of hypopigmentation of the hair or hyperpigmentation of the hair) can occur as a result of nutritional insults or due to medications. Most drug-induced changes in hair colour result in lighter hair colour, but PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid) and some chemotherapy regimens produce an effect of darkened hair. Green hair (due to exogenous copper) may be associated with prior damage to the hair cuticle. Alopecia areata may involve pigmented hairs. White hairs have shown both keratinocyte (epidermal cells that produce keratin) and melanocyte (pigmented cells of the skin) abnormalities. Grey hair may darken temporarily after inflammatory processes, after radiation-induced alopecia and after some chemotherapy treatments.
Hair fall is visible on the number strands of hair (visible on a comb/hairbrush) and hair loss is visible on the scalp. Hair fall is considered as the weakening of the hair often caused by various chemicals or heat. Hair loss may result from hereditary factors or genetic factors, medical conditions (thyroid, diabetes, hypertension, anxiety), pollution, stress and nutrient deficiency-induced hair loss.
Each hair strand sits in a cavity in the skin called a follicle. Baldness occurs when the hair follicle shrinks over time, resulting in shorter and finer hair. Eventually this leads to the follicle not growing new hair. But these follicles remain alive, meaning there is a possibility of new hair growth.
- Gradual thinning of hair on top of the head circular or bald spots
- Unusual Increased amount of hair fall during combing or washing
- Full body hair loss caused by some medical conditions and chemotherapy
- Patches of scaling that spread over the scalp (may be a sign of ringworm)
- Family history (heredity)
- Hormonal changes and medical conditions
- Variety of medications
- Radiation therapy to the head
- A very stressful event
- Extreme weight loss
- Low protein intake Iron deficiency anemia
- Hairstyles and treatments
- Be gentle with your hair and avoid tugging when brushing and combing (use a wide-toothed comb), especially when your hair is wet.
- Avoid the use of heat styling tools often, which can damage hair.
- Limit the tension on hair from styles that use rubber bands, barrettes and braids.
- Refer to your healthcare practitioner about medications you take that might cause hair loss.
- Protect your hair from sunlight and other sources of ultraviolet light.
- Stop smoking as studies found an association between smoking and baldness in men.
Male pattern baldness is also known as alopecia in men and is the most common type of hair loss in men. This type of baldness is related to genes and male sex hormones. The pattern of hair loss displays as a receding hairline and hair thinning along the crown. Hair eventually becomes short, thinner and finer and a “u” shaped pattern of hair around the sides of the head and a bald area on the back of the head is usually formed. Male pattern baldness is normally diagnosed by appearance and pattern of hair loss. Common medicines that treat this type of hair loss include Minoxidil (Rogaine), Finasteride (Propecia, Proscar) and Dutasteride. Side effects of finasteride include diminished sex drive and sexual function and an increased risk of prostate cancer. Pregnant women need to avoid touching crushed or broken tablets as Finasteride can be absorbed through the skin and cause birth defects in male babies. Possible side effects of Minoxidil include scalp irritation and unwanted hair growth on the adjacent skin of the face and hands. Medications used to treat male pattern baldness need to be prescribed by a qualified doctor. Other treatments include platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injected into the scalp to stimulate hair growth, hair transplants and using laser or light caps or helmets to stimulate hair follicles.
Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is an androgen (male sex hormone) which attaches to follicle receptors cutting off blood flow preventing the absorption of vital nutrients. This results in the hair becoming thinner and thinner until it is lost. Certain hair growth treatments inhibit the production of the 5-alpha reductase enzyme in the body, preventing the formation of dihydrotestosterone.
It is estimated that more than 50% of women will experience hair loss. Female pattern hair loss (FPHL) is the most significant hair loss in women. This type of hair loss may be related to genes (family history of female pattern baldness), heavy blood loss during menstruation, certain medications (e.g estrogenic oral contraceptive) and changes in the level of androgen (male sex hormone). The hair loss pattern is normally on the top and crown of the scalp. It starts with a widening of the centre hair part. The front hairline remains unaffected. Hair loss rarely progresses to total baldness. The diagnosis for this condition is based on medical history, pattern of hair loss and ruling out other causes such as thyroid disease and iron deficiency. Signs of excess androgen include abnormal new hair growth, newly formed acne and changes in menstrual periods. Minoxidil is a medicine used to treat female pattern baldness and other solutions include hair transplants.
When oestrogen levels in your body decrease due to menopause, some of the molecules that help keep the skin moisturised are depleted. Oestrogen also contributes to hair growth and fullness and without it, your hair could become thinner. As shifting of hormones occur during menopause, some individuals may experience unwanted hair growth such as hair on the upper lip or chin.
A hair analysis test evaluates the structure and DNA from cells attached to the root of the hair. This test can be used to determine if individuals are related or a forensic analysis can determine if a person was at a crime scene. In combination with other tests, hair analysis can be used to determine poisoning caused by metals such as lead or mercury. It is important to note that hair samples do not show recent changes in the body (e.g drug use) but determine drug use or exposure to chemicals that occurred over the last few months. Hair analysis is not accurate for diagnosing hair loss due to nutritional or similar disorders. But it may reveal substances such as arsenic or lead.
This is a noninvasive test used to determine information about nutrient mineral levels and ratios, metabolic status and toxicity. The results obtained from this test can be used to correct the interrelationships of essential minerals and improve cellular function.
Sample hair should be freshly washed with plain shampoo (not medicated e.g. anti-dandruff), well rinsed and untreated (not permed, dyed or bleached). If hair has been chemically treated, wait until sufficient new virgin growth has emerged to take a sample. It may be useful to select small sections of hair at the back of the head that are not visible and to avoid regrowth dye for a couple of months. The hair should also be free of all gels, oils and hair creams prior to sample collection. Always follow the hair analysis instructions to determine the amount of sample hair required.
Beta sitosterol is a plant sterol with a chemical structure similar to cholesterol found in almost all plants. This nutrient may prevent hair loss by inhibiting the production of the androgen, DHT (dihydrotestosterone) which is responsible for male pattern baldness. Beta sitosterol does this by inhibiting 5-alpha reductase type II enzymes.
Biotin is a water soluble B vitamin naturally found in some foods such as beef liver, avocado, salmon, pork, eggs (cooked), sweet potato, nuts and seeds. This nutrient helps with the production of keratin and research has shown that a deficiency can lead to hair loss. Biotin has been shown to help with preventing balding and hair loss, but further research needs to be done to confirm the hair growth benefits of biotin.
Fenugreek is a herb of the pea family and is commonly found in its dried seed form used as a spice. This herb is a good source of vitamin A, B, C and K, protein, iron, calcium, potassium, phosphates, folic acid, saponins and flavonoids. It also has powerful anti-inflammatory properties that maintain a healthy scalp, promoting stronger hair growth. Fenugreek contains lecithin, which acts as a natural emollient that conditions your scalp and hair deeply, preventing hair loss and keeping hair soft and shiny. This nutrient is also a great source of protein and amino acids, which helps to repair the hair shaft damaged due to heat styling, chemicals, sun damage or colour treatments. The natural saponins present in fenugreek have antifungal and antibacterial properties that prevent microbial infections and dandruff on your scalp. It also plays a role in decreasing scalp inflammation as it contains antioxidants that help to reduce oxidative stress, therefore promoting hair growth. The rich content of iron and potassium available in fenugreek helps with premature greying hair.
Folic acid (folate) is a B vitamin used by the body to make new cells and is the synthetic form of folate used in supplements. It is important for brain function, mental and emotional health and also aids in the production of the body’s genetic material. Folic acid plays a significant role in tissue and cell growth during pregnancy, infancy and adolescence. Studies have shown that serum folate levels decrease during metformin therapy. Folic acid has been found to boost hair growth, prevent premature hair greying, reduces hair fall and adds volume and shine to hair.
He shou wu (polygonum multiflorum) is a herb native to China and has been traditionally used for treating patients suffering from baldness and hair loss in East Asia. Studies have suggested that an extract of this nutrient promotes hair growth by inducing anagen phase in resting hair follicles. It may also increase melanin synthesis causing grey hair to darken back to its original colour.
Horsetail (equisetum arvense) is fern where the horsetail extract is sourced from. This extract contains high amounts of silica, which is a compound that strengthens (by interacting with keratin) and thickens hair. This extract also improves the circulation of your blood leading to healthy hair follicles and increases hair production.
Nettle extract (urtica dioica), also known as stinging nettle, is abundant in fiber, minerals, vitamins and antioxidant compounds (polyphenols and carotenoids) found in the leaves of this plant. Studies have shown that supplementing with this herbal extract increased dermal papilla cell growth which are the cells part of the hair follicle and regulate hair growth. Nettle extract also has the ability to prevent hair loss by blocking DHT (dihydrotestosterone) which is the hormone responsible for hair loss and thinning hair.
Nicotinamide (niacin) is a form of vitamin B3 made in the body from tryptophan and is water soluble. Food sources include beef, beef liver, pork, poultry, fish, brown rice, nuts, seeds, legumes and bananas. This nutrient improves blood flow, aids in the stimulation of new hair growth and may also be helpful in reducing hair fall. Studies have found that niacin increases hair fullness. When niacin is applied topically to hair and the scalp, it can improve the appearance of hair follicles.
Pygeum (pygeum africanum phytosterols) is an herbal extract taken from the bark of the African cherry tree. This extract contains a number of active components, such as phytosterols (including beta-sitosterol), ursolic and oleanolic acids and ferulic acid (naturally found in the cell wall of plants) that contain antioxidant properties. Beta-sitosterol may support healthy hair growth and improve hair condition by blocking DHT (dihydrotestosterone). It also stimulates blood circulation to the scalp, therefore supporting oxygen and vital nutrients to reach hair roots and follicles where they are needed.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is an herb native to the Mediterranean region. Rosemary oil is a potent antioxidant that can fight against free radicals and prevents damaged hair follicles which cause hair loss. This nutrient also has anti-inflammatory properties which helps to soothe an itchy scalp.
Saw palmetto berry extract is made from the berries growing on the saw palmetto fan palm. This nutrient is rich in phytochemicals. Studies have found that topical and oral supplementation with this nutrient showed beneficial outcomes on overall hair quality, improvement in total hair count and increased hair density. Further studies need to be done to confirm these results.
The skin is the largest organ of our body and is known as the end organ as it is a good indicator of your general health. Various factors including your genes, lifestyle and what you eat can support a healthy skin.
Here are some foods that support healthy skin:
Eggs, frittata, organic peanut butter (no added sugar and salt), almond butter, cashew butter, rolled oats (not quick cooking oats), quinoa, avocados, whole grain bread (not mass produced and full of preservatives), rye bread, a healthy muesli (excluding sugar), fruit salad, nuts, white cheese (limit portions), seeds such as pumpkin, sesame, sunflower, chia, coconuts (fresh or coconut water), organic cocoa, rooibos tea and replace sugar with raw honey or xylitol.
Turkey, chicken, fish, calamari, meat, avocado, egg, leafy greens, rice, quinoa, vegetables, baked or boiled potatoes, sweet potatoes, lentils, chickpeas, whole grain pasta, tofu and miso soup.
Carbohydrates containing high fibre (wholegrains, wholewheat, brown rice etc.) should be consumed with lean protein sources and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Include cold pressed oils in your diet such as avocado and olive oil.
Keep hydrated with water to help flush the skin of toxins and allow the kidneys to effectively eliminate these toxins. Add ginger, turmeric and cinnamon to your diet as they have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which are beneficial for skin health.
Here are some foods to avoid:
Processed and refined foods including cereals, takeaways, pastries, sugar, fried foods, dairy (pro-inflammatory) fizzy drinks, fruit juices, refined pasta (made with white flour), processed meats (ham, polony, salami etc.), alcohol, coffee, energy drinks and yellow cheese (in large amounts).
Always keep your face clean, even if you do not have acne. A good skincare regime includes washing your face twice daily.
Avoid using fragrances, oils or gels on your hair. If these products transfer to your face, they can block your skin’s pores and cause irritation. A gentle shampoo and conditioner is ideal to use. Oily hair in contact with your face can also cause skin breakouts, therefore washing your hair regularly will prevent this.
Avoid oily and junk food in your diet and add more fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains to your daily intake. Dairy products, processed foods and sugar may trigger acne and should be limited in the diet.
It is important to determine a moisturiser that works for your skin type - oily, dry, sensitive or combination skin. Moisturisers are significant for skin hydration.
Avoid touching your face with your hands. This can spread bacteria and irritate facial skin that is already inflamed. Never pick pimples with your fingers, as this may increase risk of infection and scarring.
Regular exercise daily is important for overall skin tone and texture by increasing blood flow and circulation, which assists in bringing more nutrients and oxygen to the skin.
Avoid wearing makeup or use a light amount of makeup products on your skin during a breakout. Makeup must always be removed before you sleep as it can clog skin pores.
Some studies link stress with the severity of pimples or acne. It is important to find solutions to help deal with stress levels.
Acne is caused by overactive oil glands (sebaceous) in the skin and a buildup of oil, dead skin cells and bacteria, which leads to inflammation in the skin pores.
Oil glands are stimulated when hormones become active during puberty. This is the reason why individuals are likely to get acne during their teenage years. Acne is also related to your genes, so if other family members developed acne when they were teenagers, you are more likely to also develop this skin condition.
Many plants and nutrients are known to have antimicrobial properties and researchers are constantly investigating to see whether plant-based treatments might be an effective alternative to antibiotics.
A study found that a cream containing natural extracts of propolis, tea tree oil and aloe vera was more effective in reducing mild to moderate acne than a cream containing the synthetic antibiotic erythromycin.
Antibiotics that suppress Propionibacterium acnes are the standard treatment for acne but are becoming less effective due to the increase of antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains. Healthcare practitioners are also encouraged to prescribe fewer antibiotics overall due to the rising antimicrobial resistance.
Manuka honey is produced by bees that feed on the Manuka (shrub) on New Zealand’s North Island. Research has found that this type of honey has stronger medicinal properties than other types of honey. It is often used in products to help promote cell regeneration, heal acne and hydrate skin. Manuka honey is graded (12+ or 16+) to indicate the amount of beneficial compounds and antioxidants present. A high number indicates a stronger antibiotic effect. This honey can be applied to blemishes with a cotton swab and treat acne due to its anti-inflammatory and antibiotic properties.
Manuka honey is only produced in New Zealand in a limited supply. To produce Manuka honey, bees must only pollinate the Manuka flower. If the Manuka flower is only one of many blooms pollinated, the honey created is ‘multi-floral’ Manuka, which has a much lower concentration of Manuka honey’s unique wellness properties. Monofloral Manuka honey is created when bees, by their own free will, choose to pollinate this unique bloom above all others.
The Manuka flower has a very short flowering window. This means that bees have roughly 12 days to collect the nectar of the Manuka flower and create the Manuka honey yield of the entire year. It takes bees 22,700 trips to the Manuka flower to gather the nectar needed to create a single jar of honey, which is a lot of work in a very short period of time!
Having a healthy diet can help to detoxify the skin and get rid of toxins. A healthy diet consists of consuming plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, essential amino acids and healthy fats. Avoiding processed and fried foods, refined sugar, sugary juices and excessive amounts of alcohol will aid in the skin detoxifying process.
A detox can help to unclog pores and reduce the appearance of blemishes/acne. This is because it helps to remove impurities from the skin, which can lead to breakouts.
Using nutrients such as Commiphora wightii, also known as Guggal may help with acne. Guggal is a resin used in Ayurveda, with its unique ability to assist the body in removing naturally accumulating toxins. This nutrient has powerful detoxifying and rejuvenating qualities which can enhance the benefits of other herbs when used in combination. Studies have found that guggul compared favourably to tetracycline in treating cystic acne.
Exfoliating your skin can help to slough off dead skin cells and promote new cell growth, therefore assisting in the detox process.
Double cleansing is suitable for those who wear make-up. It entails cleansing your face twice, first with an oil-based product and then followed by a water-based cleanser. Double cleansing helps to detoxify skin and unclogs pores, which can help achieve a more radiant complexion.
Detox baths can help to remove toxins from the body and they have other benefits such as reducing stress and promoting relaxation. Epsom salt baths and apple cider vinegar baths can help with detoxification of the skin. To make an epsom salt solution, mix two cups of epsom salts, one cup bicarbonate of soda and one teaspoon activated charcoal. Use half a cup of this mixture in your bath two to three times a week.
Drink lots of water
Drinking a sufficient amount of water ensures that your skin is hydrated. Try to avoid beverages such as coffee and sodas as these drinks can dehydrate the skin. Green tea is ideal for hydration as it promotes clearer skin and a brighter complexion/
Ensuring that an adequate amount of hours of sleep is essential for overall health and it also plays a major role in skin health. Skin can become dull and lifeless if sufficient hours of sleep are not met and it can also increase your risk of developing fine lines and wrinkles.
Roaccutane (isotretinoin) is a prescription medication used to treat severe acne. It is an anti-inflammatory drug that targets the sebaceous glands (produces oil) in the skin and reduces their oil production and decreases the number of bacteria that live in the skin. Pimples, nodules (solid, painful lumps beneath the skin), cysts (the pus-filled lumps under the skin) and scarring all need to be present before you can consider starting Roaccutane. Roaccutane cannot be used by pregnant, breast-feeding women or individuals with impaired liver function. Caution also needs to be exercised for anyone with diabetes, depression or impaired kidney function. Side effects of using this medication include dry skin, eyes, nose and lips, rashes and mild itching, sore or dry mouth or throat, headaches and aches and pains in joints and muscles.
Roaccutane is a vitamin A derivative (form) known as a retinoid. Your body reacts to this medication in a similar manner to how it reacts to vitamin A. Vitamin A can build up in your tissues and may become a problem. You should not take vitamin A supplements while using Roaccutane.
Tetracycline is an oral antibiotic most commonly prescribed to treat acne. Tetracycline also comes in a cream that's used topically (on the skin) to treat acne. Tetracycline works by slowing down the growth of the bacteria that cause acne. It also acts as an anti-inflammatory which aids in reducing the swelling and redness of acne. Other oral antibiotics used to treat acne include clindamycin and erythromycin. This antibiotic should not be used by pregnant women and young children less than 12 years old. Common side effects of tetracycline include an upset stomach, vomiting, diarrhoea, sore throat, vaginal yeast infections and/or oral thrush, rash, dizziness and sun sensitivity. Tetracycline has been known to decrease the contraceptive effect of oral birth control pills and it cannot be taken with isotretinoin because these medications may interact with one another.
Rosacea is a skin condition primarily affecting the face. It can also be present on the neck, ears, chest and shoulders. Symptoms include persistent or unusual flushing or redness, visible blood vessels, thickening or scaling of skin, pimples, white heads, blackheads, enlarged pores, pustules and bumps, irritated eyes, scaly, flaky eyebrow skin and a bulbous (large, red and bumpy) nose.
The etiology of rosacea is unclear, but there is increasing evidence to suggest that rosacea is a continuous inflammatory process and that there is a key role for the Demodex mite in this inflammatory process. Certain supplements contain ingredients that can eradicate these mites.
Due to its anti-inflammatory, skin nourishing, revitalising and restorative actions, Mongolian sea buckthorn oil is also used as a treatment for rosacea.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune skin condition that causes a rash with itchy, scaly patches, most commonly on the knees, elbows, trunk and scalp.
Traditional Chinese medicine has been used to treat psoriasis by reducing inflammation, modifying keratinocyte behaviour and overcoming the hyper-immune response expressed in the skin.
Research has noted that tea tree oil may be helpful in treating psoriasis due to its anti-inflammatory and antifungal properties and may help reduce scaliness as well. To use tea tree oil, add 5 to 15 drops of pure tea tree oil to one tablespoon of your carrier oil (carrier oils are used to dilute essential oils - coconut, jojoba, olive and rosehip oil) before adding it to a full tub. Make sure to stir the water well before you get in to make sure the oils are properly dispersed.
Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is an inflammatory skin condition that causes dry, itchy and inflamed skin.
Treating eczema naturally includes using colloidal oatmeal (found in a variety of bath soaks and body lotions) which is calming and helps soothe inflammation. Using apple cider vinegar (added to bath water) can kill bacteria associated with skin infections in eczema. Applying coconut to affect areas may help as it contains antibacterial properties. Also using petroleum jelly doesn’t cause a stinging sensation, moisturises well and does not cause allergies. Applying a cool, wet washcloth to inflamed skin can help soothe pain and itching.
Patients already following a healthy diet - including healthy whole foods, fresh fruit and vegetables, do not necessarily need to take supplements pre and post surgery but an extra boost from certain nutrients may help increase their rate of recovery and healing. Supplementing with vitamin C (promote and support proper wound healing), vitamin A (supports adequate healing of incisions and promotes collagen production), zinc (ability to support skin and mucosal membranes while healing from plastic surgery), bromelain (thought to reduce swelling and inflammation after surgery) and arnica montana (may reduce bruising and swelling and slight pain relief but must not be applied directly to open wounds or incisions) can optimise healing after surgery. Many plastic and general surgeons as well as other medical professionals, often recommend an oral medical grade collagen supplement as part of their pre-surgery regimen to provide support, as well as part of their post-surgery routine. Collagen promotes faster and more effective recovery, enabling patients to return back to their normal routines sooner.
Specific DNA tests for skin can offer significant value for any individual who wants to address skin concerns including elasticity, pigmentation, breakouts, accelerated ageing due to sun damage and pollution and sensitive skin issues. These tests offer insight into key areas that influence skin health, offering personalised topical, nutraceutical, diet and lifestyle recommendations for improved outcomes.
Studies have found that supplementation with collagen improves skin moisture, elasticity, hydration and also reduces the wrinkling and roughness of the skin. Collagen causes an increase in fibroblasts (cells that contribute to the formation of connective tissue) and extracellular matrix proteins (provides support, gives structure to cells and tissues in the body) and a decrease in metalloproteinase (group of enzymes that can break down proteins, such as collagen) which assists in the process of maintaining youthful skin. Collagen also helps skin cells adhere to one another and provides the skin with strength and elasticity.
Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide (NAD) is a naturally occurring coenzyme (catalyst for many enzymes) in human cells, which plays a critical role in the mitochondria (small structures which produce energy in the cells). By regulating the metabolism of cells, it has an important role to play in the ageing of mammals through a unique role in the production of ATP from the oxidation of fuel molecules in our cells. This nutrient plays an important role in preventing energy deficiency in tissues. When cells have more energy via NAD, they function more efficiently, live much longer and stay healthy.
Multiple amino acids (alpha lipoic acid, N-acetyl cysteine, L-glycine, L-carnosine and L-proline) are involved in the second phase of the liver's detoxification. This phase of liver detoxification is extremely important for excretion of several endogenous toxins produced in the body. Environmental toxins (increasing due to modern life) are also detoxified by this phase in the liver. These toxins produce low grade inflammation in the body, thereby inducing degeneration and premature ageing in the body. Resveratrol also serves as a substrate for this very important phase of detoxification in the liver.
A decrease in oestrogen also causes your skin’s collagen production to decrease. Loss of collagen means the skin loses its youthful volume and tightness. Skin may also be more prone to dryness, flaking and itching and may also produce dark spots (age spots). Post menopause breakouts or acne may also be experienced by some women due to lower oestrogen levels.
- Sunscreen reduces the risk of sunburn. Constant exposure to sunburn can lead to damage that can cause skin cancer, premature wrinkling and many other skin issues.
- Sunscreen prevents the signs of ageing. Repeated sun exposure can cause damage to your elastin, collagen and skin cells, leading to premature signs of ageing including discoloration, wrinkles, fine lines, and a leathery appearance.
- Sunscreen reduces the risk of skin cancer. It is recommended using a minimum of SPF 30 multiple times each day. For more protection, a higher level SPF can be used. If prolonged hours are spent outdoors or there is exposure to water, sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours.
- Applying sunscreen can prevent areas of discoloration that are often called “sun spots” or “liver spots”. They develop on the face, head, hands and arms and affects both men and women.
- Wearing sunscreen daily helps to prevent inflammation from harmful rays. When skin is exposed to UV rays it can cause painful redness and inflammation. This is especially challenging for individuals with skin issues like psoriasis or rosacea.
When choosing a sunscreen, look for products that give a full range of light protection (“broad spectrum” coverage.) Choosing an SPF of 30 or higher will ensure that your skin is fully protected, even on cloudy days. Sunscreen needs to be reapplied after swimming or using a towel.
Remember to check the UVA levels at the same time. A UVA rating measures how well a sunscreen protects against the sun's UVA rays. The scoring ranges from 1-5 stars, 5 stars being the most effective. This rating is easy to find and will often be on the front of the bottle. UVA is measured in nanometres and protection offered should be between 350 and 400 nanometers.
PA+ means your sunscreen provides some protection against UVA rays, PA++ provides moderate protection and PA+++ offers the best protection of the three. Recent advancements have seen the introduction of PA++++ products which offer PPD (persistent pigment darkening) protection of 16 or more.
SPF refers to the extra protection offered by applying sunscreen lotion to the skin. If your skin usually starts to change colour within five minutes, a sunscreen with a SPF of 20 will protect your skin for 20 times as long (5 times 20, which equals 100 minutes). It is important to remember, there is no such thing as a complete sun-blocker, as all sunscreen lotions need to be reapplied at regular intervals.
UV rays are part of the light spectrum that reaches the earth. The broader UVB rays cause tanning of the skin and are responsible for redness, painful burning, skin spots and eventually skin cancer. UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin and can damage the structure of the cells, causing ageing and increasing the risk of skin cancer.
Type A (UVA) ultraviolet radiation is the greatest source of sunlight on the earth's surface and penetrates the surface layers of the skin. UVA is not filtered by window glass, unlike UVB, and is unaffected by atmospheric and altitude conditions. UVA causes cataract and retinal diseases.
Type B (UVB) ultraviolet radiation reaches small amounts of the earth’s surface due to the increased absorption by the ozone layer. UVB causes more damage to the cornea and lens of the outer eye and damage to the eyelids. Unlike UVA, UVB burns the skin and causes skin cancer.
Type C (UVC) ultraviolet radiation is extremely harmful to the skin, but is completely absorbed by the stratospheric ozone and does not reach the earth's surface.
Oral skincare capsules increase the skin’s resistance to sunburn and preserve the vitality of skin cells against radiation. The nutrients available in these capsules provide high antioxidant activity from inside the body and have direct damage repair capacity.
Fernblock® is a unique all-natural antioxidant extract, administered both topically (on the skin) or orally, which can improve the skin’s defences against all the damaging types of radiation from the sun, not just the ones that cause you to burn.
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in South Africa with about 20 000 reported cases every year. South Africa has the second highest incidence of skin cancer in the world after Australia.
The good news is that skin cancer can be prevented by protecting yourself against the harsh rays of the sun. The three most common types of skin cancers are basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and malignant melanoma.
It is recommended to see a dermatologist once a year or more often if you are at a higher risk of skin cancer (e.g family history), for a full-body, professional skin examination.
If you're not suffering from any issues with your skin, it's a good idea to start regularly seeing a dermatologist by age 25. Scheduling an annual appointment by the time you're in your mid-20s gives you the best chances of staying safe and keeping your skin healthy.
If you see any irregular skin growths, asymmetrical moles or lesions larger than a pencil eraser, make a dermatologist appointment immediately.
Check your skin carefully every month including your back and the top of your head. If you notice any of the warning signs, see a doctor or dermatologist immediately.
A- asymmetry - a mole or mark with one half unlike the other - common moles are round and symmetrical
B - border irregularities - scalloped or poorly defined edges - common moles have smooth and even borders
C - colour variations and inconsistency – tan, brown, black, red, white and blue - common moles are usually a single shade of brown or black
D - diameter - larger than 6 mm
Mongolian sea buckthorn oil
Mongolian sea buckthorn oil has high-nutritional values due to the omega 7 oil content. Omega 7 (palmitoleic acid) is a monounsaturated fatty acid. Supplementing with this nutrient supports optimum vascular and mucosal integrity and has skin nourishing, revitalising and restorative actions when taken orally and applied topically supporting treatment for a range of skin issues. This nutrient is also ideal for reducing acne breakouts, because it alerts the oil glands to stop creating excess amounts of sebum, reduces inflammation in the skin, prevents future flare ups, helps to fade scars and promotes an overall more even and smoother skin texture.
According to research, individuals who ingested two cups of spearmint tea daily saw their acne lesions reduced by 25% after one month and 51% after three months. Spearmint has a high amount of anti-inflammatory properties which makes it useful for reducing the size of pimples.
Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is an antiseptic and pH balancer that works as a natural astringent. Some face washes can disrupt the skin's protective oil barrier. Apple cider vinegar alkalizes the skin and rebalances its pH levels. It also has strong antibacterial properties, which may kill bacteria that causes acne.
An apple cider vinegar toner can be created by mixing a tablespoon of organic apple cider vinegar with two to three tablespoons of filtered water (for sensitive skin, use more water) and then pour the toner onto a cotton pad and apply to the skin after cleansing.
Applying ice cubes wrapped in clean tissue paper to the affected area can reduce inflammation and quicken the healing process. Freezing rose water or chamomile tea into ice cubes and using them on your acne can provide an antibacterial benefit and soothes red skin.
Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil has been used by homoeopaths for many years as a herbal remedy for acne as it has beneficial antibacterial properties.
To use this oil, dilute it with water and use a cotton cue tip to swab the affected area (pimples/acne) one to two times per day. The sun should be avoided afterwards, since tea tree oil can cause your skin to be more sensitive to UV rays. This treatment should not be used more than twice a day as it can dry out the skin.
Witch hazel is a proven anti-inflammatory and works best when paired with antibacterial tea tree oil and diluted water.
Mix 1 part water to 1 part witch hazel and add a few drops of tea tree oil to create a natural and hydrating astringent.
Smooth nails, without any grooves and pits, uniform in colour and consistency and free of spots or discolouration.
- Changes in nail colour including discolouration of the whole nail or a dark streak under the nail
- Curling of nails and change of shape
- Thickening or thinning nails
- Separation of the nail from surrounding skin
- Bleeding, swelling or pain around the nails
- Failure of nails to growth out
- Certain medical conditions (autoimmune) may affect nail quality cause vertical ridges
Nail problems: Brittle, weak and dry
Possible nutrient deficiencies: Calcium, vitamin A
Nail problems: White spots
Possible nutrient deficiencies: Iron, zinc
Nail problems: Cracking and breaking
Possible nutrient deficiencies: Protein, iron
Nail problems: White lines
Possible nutrient deficiencies: Zinc, protein
Nail problems: Curved nail end and darkening
Possible nutrient deficiencies: Vitamin B12
Nail problems: Reddish brown spots
Possible nutrient deficiencies: Folic acid, protein, vitamin C
There are various factors that can cause unhealthy nails and it ranges from fungal infections to skin disorders like eczema to internal conditions like heart, lung, liver, or kidney problems. Nutritional deficiencies, celiac disease, or serious health stressors like a fever or chemotherapy medications can also damage your nails. Dry air also dehydrates your nails as much as your skin. Genetics and ageing can also play a role in each individual's nail health.
- Eat a well balanced diet containing foods rich in the following nutrients which support healthy nail growth:
Cysteine: chicken, yoghurt, legumes (beans, peas, lentils)
Folate: spinach, asparagus, romaine lettuce, avocado, green peas
Biotin: egg yolks, salmon, nuts, seeds, spinach, broccoli
Zinc: oysters, beef, beans, nuts, seeds
Vitamin A: sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, mangoes
Vitamin C: bell peppers, citrus fruits, strawberries, Brussels sprouts, kiwifruit
- Avoid biting nails, trimming and pushing back cuticles. This can stunt nail growth and increase the risk of infection
- Dampen nails first with water before filing them to soften the nail structure and always file the nail in one direction.
- Avoid exposing your hands to harsh soaps, cleaning products, and solvents. These chemicals pull out the natural oils from your nails and damage the nail keratin protein.
- Moisturise your nails with oils such as jojoba oil, avocado oil and shea butter to lock in moisture.
- Gel/acrylic manicures can be tough on nails, causing brittleness, peeling and cracking and the repeated use of UV radiation (when placing hands under the UV lamps) may increase the risk of skin cancer and premature ageing on the hands. It is advisable to put sunscreen on the back of your hands before exposing them to UV lamps and use nail polishes made without formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate, toluene and the allergens camphor and formaldehyde resin. Look out for nail polishes with the phrase “three free”, meaning it does not contain formaldehyde (classified as a human carcinogen), toluene (a common solvent) and dibutyl phthalate (helps create long-wear formulas) or read the ingredient list see if the product contains these harmful ingredients.